This past week, we had Nathaniel Banks, Chuck Jackson and myself. I learned a bit and I hope I get most of it here.
One of the issues we discussed is the top-down management style prevalent in Unit 4 Administration. An example at Stratton was used whereby a majority of parent’s wanted to retain the longer school day, but the teachers (allegedly represented by the teachers union, the Champaign Federation of Teachers) did not. It sounds like the CFT approached Administration and eliminated the longer days. From what I hear, the parent’s were not involved in the decision making process at all. In another example, the CFT so constrained the hiring of particular support staff such that only a certified teacher could fill the position, and there is speculation that the position could have been better filled. Granted, I don’t have all the sides of the story. So please feel free to fill me in. Yet, we do observe these types of situations occurring – the Administration makes a decision, and presto-bingo, those are the new marching orders. I am also aware that a previous CFT President occasionally reads these posts…. just saying. 🙂
We talked a bit about the role of the ombudsperson, and how it is important for community members to have a safe place in which to release their opinions; not such much to air dirty laundry or rag about anything, but more to show that people are valuable and worth listening to, and to extract key issues from such sessions in which to present to the School District in the hopes of finding compromise or solutions. Comparisons were made to CARE3 and Community Citizens Concerned about Quality Education. I have heard a lot about CARE3, but I was never directly involved and it is difficult to find much information about them via google (although you can follow the rabbit trail to Mark Aber and Access Initiative). In retrospect, our little gathering at Houlihans is just one more example of a group of concerned people that want to make a positive impact on the community, one among many others. Which further makes me think, why is there not more collaboration? Why are we all so isolated?
My one action item is to talk to Wiegand about Grinnip. I am trying to think of how to phrase this. Allow me to diverge on a tangent briefly.
So we have UC2B being rolled out as we speak (you have probably seen crews laying out long orange tubes underground along streets). Unit 4 has made the single largest contribution towards UC2B, over and above the University of Illinois and other vested partners. This is amazing in and of itself. And with two strands of fiber, they will certainly have a heck of a lot of bandwidth. What are they going to do with it? Let us think about the purpose of UC2B (at least, what they publicly say about themselves):
“This direct connectivity will enable improved access/support to health care, educational and recreational institutions, public safety and government agencies, and social service and religious organizations, as well as increased access to public computing centers. and a sustainable adoption and educational outreach program for vulnerable populations. Training, entertainment, and social networking opportunities will also be enhanced.”
There is a ton of information about UC2B online. Were is the Wiki entry? 🙂 Anyway, all this focus on bringing a fatter pipe to the internet to “anchor institutions” and various low-incoming housing. And it seems that the sole purpose is merely to “connect” them. I am bit confused why we need this. We have 0$ for computer literacy, but we have over 30$ million to lay down infrastructure and buy a bunch of really cool brand new toys. Interesting.
So bringing this back to Grinnip. All schools will be “connected” to this fat pipe. Unit 4 is planning to not provide public wi-fi. So here is what I propose first and foremost (in this context). Let’s have a sit-down chat with Grinnip and other folks in Unit 4 IT and with the parents of Unit 4 children, and let us, at the same table, figure out what is needed, what is desired and how to achieve those goals. Together.
Personally, I am bit tired of hearing about how we “need” UC2B – from my point of view, it seems like “we” are providing an answer to a question that has not been asked. We should be asking, “what do you need?” What problems are you facing, and what issues make your life rough?